Syracuse women's lacrosse embracing underdog mentality entering ACC Tournament
Syracuse women’s lacrosse has been ranked in the top five all season, and currently sit at No. 3, tied for their highest ranking of the season.
They have seven wins over ranked opponents, three of which came against teams in the current top ten. One could easily imagine they may feel as if they have a target on their back.
In this year’s ACC, however, that is far from the case.
Syracuse is the three seed in the conference tournament, which begins Friday on the campus of Notre Dame. Should they beat No. 16 Virginia in the opening round, their likeliest path to the championship would be through the only teams above them in the national rankings: No. 2 Boston College, then No. 1 North Carolina.
“I actually think we have a little bit more of the underdog mentality,” Treanor said. “We’re looking forward to the chance to play some of these teams that have [beaten] us so that we can show the country that we are capable of beating them.”
Treanor and the Orange suffered losses in April to Boston College and North Carolina by just two goals each and would surely love to see both teams again. But in order to earn that right, they have to go through the Cavaliers Friday night.
Highlights from tonight’s thriller. pic.twitter.com/FwtLgBHsoN— Syracuse Women's Lacrosse (@CuseWLAX) April 23, 2022
Though Virginia sits at just 8-8 overall and 3-5 in conference play, they represent an earnest challenge to SU’s hopes of a deep tournament run. All eight of those losses have come to teams ranked in the top 20, plus the Cavaliers defeated ranked opponents Stanford and Richmond.
In short, the Orange are far from taking the Cavaliers lightly.
“They have a tremendous amount of talent on that roster,” Treanor said. “They dodge really hard and they finish; they’re willing to shoot on top of any defender.”
It has been a hallmark of Treanor’s press conferences this season that all opponents have been given glowing praise. Whether it was undefeated North Carolina or an early season tune-up against Binghamton, the phrase, “that’s a great opponent” has always been present in the head coach’s remarks.
It can be easy to forget, given her success as both a player at Syracuse and assistant at Boston College, that this is Treanor’s first season at the helm of a lacrosse team, and therefore her first ACC Tournament as well.
However, her experience in these types of games is nearly certain to translate, especially if you ask her players about it.
“She has a lot of experience and she’s been really helpful with us,” Tyrrell said. “Giving us tips and pointers on how to be better... that’s something we’ve been really thankful for.”
Treanor has also gained the trust of her team through shrewd strategical decisions throughout the year.
Whether it was the savvy defensive switch when trailing by seven against No. 7 Duke or drawing up plays that helped the Orange score four straight goals against Boston College, Treanor seems to have consistently been pushing the right buttons.
“Halftime adjustments have been really key for us,” Tyrrell said. “Especially if we don’t start off as hot as we want to, going into halftime, we kind of know we aren’t doing our best.”
One adjustment the Orange will have to make in their rematch with Virginia is replacing the production of Meaghan’s sister Emma Tyrrell, who contributed five points in the 17-11 SU victory in Charlottesville on March 12.
Though the younger Tyrrell was on an All-American pace before suffering a season-ending injury in practice at the end of March, the offense has still been productive in her absence. The Orange have averaged 17.2 goals per game in five games without the junior midfielder.
“Emma’s a big loss, she’s an amazing player,” Treanor said. “But that’s part of the resiliency [I’ve been] talking about with this group, they’ve dealt with a lot of adversity and they’ve really bonded together.”
On the positive side of the injury ledger, Syracuse has now had a week to practice with Megan Carney back in the fold after the senior attacker returned from injury and played the entire game against Boston College.
Carney scored three goals and added an assist in the game in Charlottesville.
“The chemistry she has with all the players, it’s been great for us,” Meaghan Tyrrell said. “Having her back in there is definitely a plus.”
Welcome back Megan Carney! pic.twitter.com/2DhYq69NVQ— Syracuse Women's Lacrosse (@CuseWLAX) April 22, 2022
Friday’s game against Virginia will begin at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to the semifinals on Sunday. And from here, each of the games mean a little bit more.
For Carney, Meaghan Tyrrell and the other ten seniors and graduate students on the roster, this marks the beginning of the final postseason with a core group that has left a massive imprint on the program’s history and record book.
“Going through COVID and injuries and just so much that has happened through their time, they’ve been resilient,” Treanor said. “This past year has been a joy and a lot of it is because of that senior class.”